Taliban forcibly evicting Hazaras, others to reward supporters: Human Rights Watch

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The Taliban are forcibly evicting thousands of people from their homes and land in Afghanistan, in what amounted to “collective punishment”, according to Human Rights Watch.

Members of the Shia Hazara community are in particular being targeted by the Taliban, while people who were associated with the former Afghan government are also being asked to leave, HRW said as per report by The Guardian.

“The Taliban are forcibly evicting Hazaras and others on the basis of ethnicity or political opinion to reward Taliban supporters,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

He added, “These evictions, carried out with threats of force and without any legal process, are serious abuses that amount to collective punishment.”

Hazaras make up around 9 per cent of Afghanistan's 36 million people. They are often targeted because they are Shia Muslims in a Sunni-majority country.

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According to HRW, lands and homes that are being seized by the Taliban will be redistributed to supporters.

Last week, the Taliban promised plots of land and cash reward to relatives of suicide bombers who attacked US and Afghan soldiers.

FORCED EVICTION IN 5 PROVINCES

The Human Rights Watch said that forced evictions took place across five provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan in the south, Daikundi in the centre, and the northern province of Balkh.

According to the report, many Afghans were ordered to leave homes and land with just a few days’ notice, and were not even given an opportunity to prove ownership of the home or land.

Some of them were reportedly told that if they did not comply with orders to leave, they “had no right to complain about the consequences”, the report said.

EVICTION AHEAD OF WINTER, IN MIDDLE OF HARVEST

The Taliban promised an inclusive government after it took over Afghanistan in August. However, they chose an all-male cabinet, dominated largely by Sunni clerics from the Pashtun ethnic group.

Since seizing control of the nation, the Taliban has been repeatedly linked to incidents of human rights violation, including reprisal killing and attacks on journalists.

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The evictions of Hazaras and others comes just ahead of winter. In much of Afghanistan, the season brings extreme cold conditions. Apart from this, the eviction also comes in the middle of harvest, which most families in rural areas rely on to pay off debts and stock up food.

Those who have been forcibly evicted from their homes and lands now join a huge number of people who have been made refugees inside their own country on account of war, drought, or economic collapse. In 2021 alone, over 665,000 Afghans have been displaced, bringing the total nationwide refugees to about 4 million.

“It’s particularly cruel to displace families during harvest and just before winter sets in,” Gossman said. “The Taliban should cease forcible evicting of Hazaras and others and adjudicate land disputes according to the law and a fair process.”

Property disputes are a major source of tension in Afghanistan with competing groups having repeatedly handed over overlapping claims to land that they took control of, leaving behind a muddle of competing documentation.

With the Taliban coming to power, those who had earlier lost suit are now petitioning the Taliban to support their ownership.

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